In remodeling, the stereotype of the male carpenter or tradesman persists. Women in the trades are notable exceptions, so much so that some remodeling companies draw attention to the fact that they have female crew members to demonstrate how progressive the company is.
Fortunately, some women have become leaders in our industry, proving that remodeling is no longer a male-only arena. More significant, I think, is that they have demonstrated many natural attributes that make a woman a better choice than a man for leading a remodeling company.
Most male remodelers start their businesses because they like building things and working with their hands. But these remodeling company owners quickly realize that sticks and bricks are secondary to business skills in running a successful company.
DRIVER'S SEAT I have met many effective and successful female remodelers. Most entered the business through a connection with a man, often their husband. They might have started as part-time bookkeepers or office managers, but as they gained experience, they moved into leadership roles. For many, this occurred at a time when their husband or the male leader of the business was struggling.
What I wonder about, though, is why women don't jump into the driver's seat from the beginning.
Women need to find the confidence to launch their own remodeling businesses. It may take them out of their comfort zone, but if they follow their skill sets, I believe that they will help the industry raise the bar of professionalism and move into the 21st century.
Fear of failure should not stop them: About 60% of male-dominated remodeling businesses fail in the first 5 years, and 90% fail in 10 years. Women can hardly do worse than that.
Women should take the plunge and get into remodeling because:
- More than 60% of the time, the female client is the “influencer” in remodeling projects. Women understand women better than men do, so it's likely they will communicate more effectively in a business situation.
- A successful remodeling experience is more about relationships and process than about the final product. Many women are more skilled than men in this area.
- About 80% of a remodeling business' success stems from the owner's business acumen — skills with marketing, sales, finance, team-building, and so on. Knowing how to work with the “sticks and bricks” is less important. That means women are just as well-equipped to run and grow a remodeling operation as their male counterparts who have similar levels of education or professional experience.
- Having a female business owner automatically differentiates a remodeling company from its competition, providing a critical marketing advantage.
- Many women prefer to work for other women. This makes for a larger, stronger pool of potential female team members.
- Remodeling has become as much about “fashion” as construction details, especially with bathrooms and kitchens, which continue to be the most popular remodeling projects. Many women better understand these elements than do their male counterparts.
TAKING THE RISK
The remodeling industry sometimes appears to be moving at a snail's pace, while the rest of the world is racing by. Having watched plenty of women move into leadership roles and excel — often achieving more than their male counterparts — I believe that women should give the remodeling business a second look.
Once women realize that they really are well-suited for remodeling leadership roles, they might take the risk. It would certainly help to make the remodeling industry better then ever.
—Mark Richardson is president of Case Design/Remodeling and Case Handyman Services, Bethesda, Md. In 2006, Ernst & Young named him a Maryland Entrepreneur of the Year.